The Death of the First American Republic

By Mark A. LeVine
t r u t h o u t | Perspective
Tuesday 03 October 2006

The American Republic died last week. At least the first one.

Is there any other way to understand the meaning of the Military Commissions Law passed by the Congress and soon to be signed by President Bush? Without any serious opposition from Democrats (twelve of whom actually voted for the bill, while none offered a serious threat to fillibuster it), President Bush has signed into a law a bill that guts the right of habeas corpus, legalizes the use of secret and coerced evidence, “clarifies” the Geneva Conventions to allow torture on the his command, prevents future war crimes prosecutions, and arrogates to himself the right to declare anyone – including American citizens – enemy combatants who can be dragged from their families, thrown in any prison he chooses, anywhere on earth, for however long he chooses.

There have been other terrible laws and legal decisions in American history to be sure. The confinement of native Americans to reservations, Jim Crow, the Dred Scott decision, the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II – all these and more rank among the lowest points in our nation’s history. But these actions were in keeping with the morality of their times. At least we, the people of the United States of America, continued to move closer toward the “truths” we’ve held to be self-evident since our Declaration of Independence. They remained a beacon calling Americans to a future that would be more just and democratic.

But who can believe the future holds such a promise today? Has there been another moment in our history when we have gone so far backward, abandoned so easily ideals and values that most Americans assumed were settled long ago? Are we still living in the republic of Jefferson and Madison? more…


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